Beginning August 20th, I will be writing a 2020 prognosis, by conference, for each of the 76 teams (6 conferences plus Independents), who are scheduled to play Football in the Fall of 2020.
Is this the year? 4th year HC Lincoln Riley has coached the Sooners to a trio of 12-2 SU seasons. Yet, each time they have met with Playoff demise by 6, 11 and 35 points. The common theme has been 3 transfer quarterbacks (Mayfield, Murray and Hurts), 2 of which have won the Heisman. This year, the mold of transfer signal callers has been broken. Highly rated QB Rattler is the heir apparent who is familiar with the system from being on the roster last year. With 8 returning starters on each side of the ball, the Sooners are again projected for a top 3 National finish. Major question to be answered is whether a defense that has allowed 29 PPG in 3 seasons under HC Riley will improve. Note, that in their final Playoff appearance of last season, they gave up 63 points to LSU.
Much like HC Riley for Oklahoma, Texas HC Herman returns for his 4th season. The results have not been nearly as glamorous with a mediocre 25-15 SU record overall. That includes a very young team from last year who went 8-5 SU. No excuses for Herman this season as he is working with his 3rd consecutive Top 10 recruiting class that includes 16 returning starters. 7 of those are on the offensive side of the ball led by QB Ellinger who returns for his senior season. This is a far more veteran team with much greater upside. Big improvement should come on the defensive side of the ball where a number of injuries last season saw this unit allow 27 PPG. It may not happen often, but keep in mind the outstanding dog log of HC Herman who is 16-5 ATS overall in the role of short, including 6-0 ATS as +10+ and 9-3 ATS as road dog at Austin.
OKLAHOMA STATE Cowboys
This looks to be a breakout season in Stillwater under 16th year HC Gundy. The Cowboys were rolling along with a trio of 10 win seasons before the bottom fell out the last two years. With just 12 and 11 starters returning in those years, the record dipped to a combined 15-11 SU. This year however, 17 returning starters give Gundy what may be his most veteran and talented team in his 15 years in Stillwater. The 10 returning defensive starters will be looking to build on a unit that improved by 6 points and 39 yards last season. The offense, with QB Sanders returning along with potential Heisman candidate RB Hubbard, figures to have another “200 Club” offensive season while improving on their 32/458 numbers of last year. Look for the Cowboys to lasso and tie many of their BIG 12 brethren this season while giving Texas and Oklahoma all they can handle. In that regard, note that the Gundy record in the previous 4 seasons is 12-3 ATS as underdog.
TCU Horned Frogs
Normally, 20th year HC Patterson bounces back big from a losing campaign such as his Frogs authored last season with a mark of 5-7 SU, 4-7 ATS. More specifically, Patterson’s teams are 25-12 ATS if they were sub .500 the previous season. An injury plagued season was partly responsible for the Frogs downturn. Many of the hopes of the offense were pinned on Max Duggan, expected to have a breakout season following the learning curve of his freshman year. It has recently been reported though that a long term heart ailment will keep Duggan from taking the field most likely for the entire campaign. Replacements Brown and Downing are a substantial step downward. Good news however, is the improvement expected by the usually tough TCU defense. With 7 returning starters, plus the return of some injured players, this unit will need to hold the fort until the offense comes around. In that regard, we want no part of TCU in the recent historical role that finds them to be 4-13 ATS as home chalk the previous 4 seasons.
IOWA STATE Cyclones
There is little doubt about the way in which 5th year HC Campbell has revived the football fortunes in Ames. The Big Wind (Cyclones) were barely a zephyr with a 4 year mark of 11-37 SU through 2016. It only took Campbell one year to turn things around. In his previous 3 years, he has led the Cyclones to a mark of 23-16 SU including 3 straight Bowl appearances. Lone concern for the offense is the graduation losses faced on the OL who returns just 33 starts. The skill positions however, return virtually intact. Led by QB Purdy, who passed for nearly 4000 yards on 66% C with a 27/9 ratio. Purdy enters this season as a winner in 11/16 of his BIG 12 starts. Most intriguing about this team is the vast defensive improvement they have made after allowing more than 30 PPG for multiple seasons. In the last three years, this team has allowed just 23 PPG. With 8 returning starters to the stop unit, look for them to be a consistent unit once again until the offense adjusts to their new O line. Note the excellence of Campbell in his preferred role as home dog. In his 4 years at the helm of the Cyclones, they are 10-2 ATS as home dog.
WEST VIRGINIA Mountaineers
Former WVU HC Holgersen got out when the gettin’ was good when he took the HC job at Houston last year. He left incoming HC Neil Brown with just 10 returning starters. It was particularly deficient on the offensive side of the ball where the Mounties went from averaging 40/512 in 2018 to only 21/327 last year. This year, I expect a huge bounce back season in Morgantown. Note the great success that Brown had while coaching Troy. In his 1st year for the Trojans, they went just 4-8 SU. That was followed by 3 seasons when they had a combined record of 31-8 SU including victories in 3 consecutive Bowl games. Note that when Brown left for WVU, the Trojans dipped to 5-7 SU, 4-7 ATS last year. In short, I repeat my prophecy of a huge bounce back season for the Mountaineers particularly on the offensive side of the ball with QBs Kendall and Doege.
TEXAS TECH Red Raiders
Not a particularly promising start for now 2nd year HC Wells in Lubbock. He inherited 15 returning starters from departing HC Klingsbury. Yet TTRR continued their losing ways. There are now 4 consecutive losing seasons for the Red Raiders with a combined record of just 20-29 SU. More was expected from Wells who had just come off an 11-2 SU, 9-3 ATS mark at Utah State. With the injury loss of QB Bowman, the Red Raiders spiraled downward to a 2-8 SU finish. The defense was unable to hold the fort, as always, with this unit giving up 30 or more points for the 7th consecutive year. Clearly the return to health of QB Bowman will be necessary for the Red Raiders offensive success. Along with the return of 8 defensive starters, TTRR, with a dynamic attack on offense, figures to have the ability to pull a stunning upset this campaign. The hopes of a winning record may once again elude them.
It has been a crazy ride for the Baylor football program who was stunned by accusations of impropriety in 2015. The result was the ousting of former HC Briles who had led them to unparalleled success, with 7 consecutive winning seasons through 2015. Replacement coach Jim Grobe picked up the pieces as an interim in 2016. When Matt Rhule took over the following season, he led the Bears to a trio of seasons in which they went from 1 to 7 to 11 wins improving dramatically across the board on both offense and defense. Rhule may however, have gotten out of Waco at the right time as more than half of the teams starts were made by seniors last year. Particularly notable is just 2 returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. Left to pick up the pieces is new HC Dave Aranda, the highly paid former DC at both Wisconsin and LSU. He brought in new OC Larry Fedora to spark up the offense. Ye t it won’t be enough this season as, with an entirely new coaching staff, the Bears were afforded no spring practices. Looks like a rebuilding year once again in Waco.
KANSAS STATE Wildcats
2nd year HC Klieman came to Manhattan with a legendary resume. He won 4 National Titles in 5 years at the FCS level with North Dakota State. Klieman stepped in to a difficult task replacing legendary HC Snyder. He made the most of it as he inherited 8 returning starters on each side of the ball recording marks of 8-5 SU, 8-4 ATS. This year’s challenge is far greater. He loses his entire OL meaning the fact they had 0 spring practices will be even more challenging in this rebuilding process. They do have a quality signal caller in Skylar Thompson. Unfortunately, he is only 1 of 3 returning offensive starters. Until that unit comes around, they will need to rely on a defense, returning 6, that was solid last year allowing just 21/369. Nonetheless, trying to keep up with the potent offensive attacks of the BIG 12 will be no easy task for these Wildcats.
Last season, now 2nd year HC Les Miles, with a National Title on his resume, was summoned to pick up the pieces at Memorial Stadium. Given just 5 returning starters on each side of the ball, there was little question the task was monumental. The 3-9 SU mark was actually tied for the most wins this team had in the previous decade. With just 11 returning starters and no spring practices, Kansas again figures to take the field in what is a perennial rebuilding season for the Jayhawks. There should be little confidence for those returning players who finished 0-4 SU, losing those BIG 12 games by margins of 28, 18, 10 and 55 points. Only 2 months till the KU basketball fans begin chanting “rock chalk”, Jayhawk.
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